Saturday, April 30, 2011


Hey, I got tagged at this site, and one good mention deserves another. "Reducing stuff, one day at a time" -- we're on it.

May plans: Photo a Day

In order to set myself up with a "creative" project, I will post 1 photo per day throughout May. At least.

Starting tomorrow.


I am in the happy position of anticipating a no-teaching summer. I may be wrong--my July class may surprising "make" given the vagaries of athletes' need to graduate--but probably I will have the luxury of a summer devoted to research, reading, and writing...

Research: My book on actresses in Paris, 1850-1900. I want to draft a decent book proposal. Sigh. I am looking forward to not only reading material but hard-core research in my campus library (sad little thing!) and through Inter-Library Loan. I have a stack of new books and articles to catch up on or to examine more closely.
Like this:

I am also keeping my hand in 17th-century research by writing a conference paper for November which will become an article (I hope!) about Moliere's dramaturgical trope of the "front door" on his Parisian stages.

Like this:

Reading: Yeah, see the list of 50 books, not at all depleted. I have most if not all of these books in my house or on the Nook. Time to get crackin' on that list!

Writing: The play (of course) which is now in better shape than it was pre-April's script frenzy, the current novel, the book proposal, the Moliere article, the May conference paper...

Yes, it will take a schedule and focused, devoted time daily to achieve these goals. Thank goodness! As a writer and academic, I have to say that the uncluttered summer, when I can devote my time, my creativity, and my intelligence to my own writing rather than mentoring stduents, is a wonderful part of my job and my career. I have the luxury of knowing that from May 15 to August 15, it is all about me.

One of the things my non-academic friends do not get is that even if I am not teaching, my summer is not free. My work week from August 15 to May 15 is filled with class meetings, preparation for class meetings, committee and service work for my department/school/university/profession, mentoring, and "creative/scholarly activity" -- like conferences and publication.

Summer is the time you can devote to your own professional, creative, intellectual growth and advancement. Which in turn feeds your students with your own professionalism, risk, and accomplishments.

I'm also planning on spending the summer revamping my theatre history course for sophomores. Changes in students as a whole have prompted me to rethink how I deliver the material. I'll be working on a new outline and lectures for that class. I'll also be refreshing the seminar I plan to give next spring, which is an upper-level course in perfromance studies. It's been a while since I taught it and I need to research new readings, re-organize the syllabus, and prepare lectures and power point presenations (I have learned that Christman break is not the time to do this!).

And these are only my professional/creative goals!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The "Stuff" Diaries: Moving, Frugality, and Minimalism

Being about 3/4 through the move from Old Apartment to New Apartment--and living day-to-day in New Apartment, I have noticed several things.

One. The "stuff" still in my old apartment is not necessary to me on a day-to-day basis.

Which means... what? First, what remains at the Old Apartment is the following: boxes of packed away things in the understairs closet, contents of bathroom cabinet I don't use daily/weekly, pantry/dishware items ditto, clothes to go to the tailor, and The Study.

Furniture and things I intend to sell on Craigslist (and have just got the ball rolling on) are there, of course, but so is stuff I thought "necessary" to my life... which isn't. I eyeball this "stuff" and think, can't I just forget it? So as I clean the apartment (looking for that deposit refund), I am also cleaning and editing what will be transported to the New Apartment. Or donated/thrown out/sold.

I'm hoping it is about a 1:1:1:1 ratio of the above.

Two. I've already transported stuff I should have edited.

How do I know? When I go to put it somewhere in the New Apartment, I have to create a spatial category for it, like "old photos" or "shoes I rarely/never wear" and store it. But not in a place where I have to get at it readly, or without one of my two stepladders (hey, I'm short!).

Note to self: if I am storing something where it won't be any trouble or reachable, it needs to be edited/donated/thrown out/sold.

Three: I have divvied up my clothes between two closets, and one is getting all the play.

What does that mean for the smaller but stuffed closet? Clothes I don't wear. Sure, there are some seasonal items that have to be stored for the return of fall/winter (starting in late October!), but again there are simply lots of things I Do Not Wear. So... why am I storing them?

I love my Express Checkout Closet with only the clothes I am wearing now, my shoes, my purses, my hats, and (to come) t-shirts and accessories. It is almost a dressing room in its orientation, where I can actually see everything circulating in a lively way. I can also see "my style," if you will, and appreciate its clarity. The older, fancier linen dresses I loved a decade ago don't fit the person using this closet, literally sure but metaphorically either--or maybe some of them do, but some of them don't. That would be a good start.

Four. Suddenly there is light and breathable space everywhere in the apartment, even with/among the many, many things I have kept and will not part with.

Not only because the apartment is bigger in square feet and with more and better situated windows, but because there is space between furniture pieces. On the shelves. On the walls.

All the more reason to edit mindfully. I don't want to crowd the apartment up again, because all of a sudden I feel like there is energy, air, breath moving through my living space. In my bedroom that means not having my sheets kept under the bed in their former plastic storage boxes... and editing the sets of sheets I keep. Having an in-house washer-dryer helps. Two flannel and two cotton sets will be enough; everything else will be donated or tossed, and another storage space will have to be found. I have already minimalized here, by the way: I don't use top sheets, only duvets or conforters, bottom sheets, and pillowcases. Ditto, towels: three sets is enough for myself and guests.

So I guess while I continue to move out of Old Apartment and into New Apartment, I will continue to mindfully edit the contents thereof.

Summer 2011, then, will include Editing Projects for the apartment, wherein I choose one room, space, or category to edit every week, with the final goal being nothing but "beautiful and useful" things in my living space.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Celebrity blogs

Blogs are everywhere. Recently, I've been noticing announcements from various celebrities about their blogs and decided to check them out. Here, for you, are some of the findings:

Gwyneth Paltrow, GOOP: Paltrow's celebrity pals and their stuff are avsailable to you in the form of her "helpful" blogging. Some is worthwhile, some is ingenuously ridiculous outside the world of celebrity (or London, Hollywood, and NYC, where she lives), and some is just foolishly fun. Enjoy. Oh, and you can sign up for her weekly email, to bring these tips directly to you.

Barbra Streisand offers news, politics, and personal information. I can see where being a big fan would make this a go-to site, and apparently she has a huge following.

At Jamie Oliver's diary you can follow his daily events, but there is a lot more to his site (naturally!) including recipes, shopping, news about his restaurants--it's a hole "Jamie" world by a man who seems never to sleep...  I'm not certain I want to know all these things about Oliver, but I do like his approach to cooking.

Neil Gaiman has a blog about writing, publishing, etc. -- his most recent post gives credit to audiobooks for his recent weight loss. Yay: Bleak House and weight loss... why did I not think of that? And if you don't know author Neil Gaiman... you should.

Jeff Bridges, one of my original crushes, has a charming, quirky, doodle-oriented website whereby he brings awareness for causes. Go, celebrities with causes!

Under the "WTH?" heading: Gene Simmons, William Shatner (and Star Trek), Anne Rice, Mark Cuban, Rosie O'Donnell, David Byrne (interesting!!!).

Have fun!

If I were in Paris... April 22, 2011

Good Lord! Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber of Fleet Street --or "le diabolique Barbier"--opens tonight at the Theatre du Chatelet with an English cast. One of my favorite musicals, like Show Boat it would be interesting to see this in Paris, with a French audience.

At the Hotel de Ville is a "major" exhibition of paintings, drawings, and pastels by Impressionist artists, focusing on paintings that show Paris through their eyes. Included are works by Vuillard, Degas, Monet and Caillebotte: "Paris at the Time of the Impressionists." In fact, if one was planning on seeing these major works at the Musee d'Orsay, this is where they are... thru July 30, in fact, so hordes of summer visitors will be redirected--one hopes!--here to see key works painted by these artists which would normally be on view on the Left Bank. Wow!

At the same time (or overlapping until May 28) at the same location is the exhibit of "Il y
a 140 ans, le Commune..."   an exhibition of engravings, photographs, etc., detailing the failed rebellion. Fabulous! These two exhibitions, side-by-side, document the artistic and political restlessness and rebellion of the 3rd quarter of the nineteenth century in this fantastic city.

Take the trip, my friends, and get a context of Paris not only as a city of brilliant artists but a political culture alive and vital.

And after that, walk the very small distance to see Sweeney Todd "le diabolique Barbier" of Fleet Street at the Theatre du Chatelet. In English, with an English cast... and a French audience. One of my favorite musicals--and I'd love to see how the French like it.

Great Fridays ahead!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My new boyfriend, Time-Warner

Like a considerate and charming boyfriend, my Time-Warner technician called twice today: first, to let me know he'd be a little late and second to say he was on his way. He showed up, took care of the outside work, came into the apartment and connected the new modem, made sure my laptop was receiving wireless signal and departed, well within the time frame of our agreement (which is great, as I had a court date to pay a traffice ticket).

Laptop: up and running.

TV/Roku player: up and running.

Sigh. I think I'm in love!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Goodbye, AT&T! Hello, decent service!

For those of you who have been following my saga of terrible service with AT&T yesterday I hit the wall: three hang-ups by operators while trying to set a new apppointment to hook up my DSL service. Like the bad bad boyfriend who treats you without respect then shows up with flowers, I have kicked AT&T to the curb.

Me: scheduled disconnect/new connection service on 4.12 for 4.15.
Them: disconnected service all right; connected new phone; showed up 4 hours early for DSL without accompanying phone call to my cell. I was at old apartment, waiting on movers.

Me: rescheduled on Saturday, after several phone-tree mishaps, for Saturday service before 8:30 pm.
Them: never showed or called.

Me: called Monday to find out what went wrong and reschedule.
Them: "lost" me three times, no one knows why technicians didn't show up on Saturday, and earliest appt. is Wednesday, 4.20.
Me: find an appointment Tuesday.
Them: we'll call abck with that in 2 hours. (Never called)

Me: Tuesday a.m. finally spoke with supervisor--no one would pass me on--to find out earliest appointment is Thursday now and it was my fault about Friday and Saturday--I "misunderstood" the operators on multiple accounts. But no real attempt to help me--unless I accept an appointment during my classtime tomorrow.

D-O-N-E. Breakup final and complete.... I have a new boyfriend, Time-Warner, who will show up.

We hope.

An open letter to AT&T: as a 30-year plus customer, I am done being treated as if you care less. You obviously don't care. The money I pay for service does not entitle you to waste my time, my money, and my mental strength. Your system is disorganized, limited, and labyrinthine. Your operators apologize without real regret, which demeans both them and me. They are powerless. I am powerless. You are a communications company without true communication. I envision a huge self-sustaining telephone switchboard run by electronic mice. If that is so, you will hardly miss me. I will certainly not miss you. Bye bye.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moving Day--After the Fact

Friday past was the Big Day, but I woke on Friday to find that the hail of the night before had knocked out my DSL wireless for the day... and AT&T was discontinuing my service at the old place and initiating my service at the new place (supposedly!).

Most of the day I spent loading my car for the ultimate move, as well as cleaning surfaces of the furniture to be moved. Mr. Z and his three guys showed at 5:30 (3 hours late!) but loaded everything in 45 minutes. We drove to the new place, they unloaded and drove away...

I have been in the new place since then. Lovely, large space with light and air. My two brief trips to the old apartment reminded me that it was dark, tiny, and that moving was a great idea, despite being in the middle of the semester and overlapping so that I had to pay double rents.

Of course, AT&T threw a spanner in the works: despite having an appointment for 8 pm to hook up my DSL, their technician turned up at 1:52... leaving a chiding note for me. Sigh. On Saturday morning I called and after 45 minutes managed to find someone to schedule a new appointment--for Saturday afternoon.

Should I tell you?

Right: the technician never showed, never called, and when I called AT&T's customer service number at 7 pm to say he hadn't shown up, their customer service was closed. For the weekend.

Despite that, I love the quiet new place. Jack loves the quiet new place: more space, more birds, more dogs, more smells. More windows: he likes to run from window to window, sniffing and surveying. Very successful for him.

So 2011 goal #1 is complete: my living situation has resolved itself in a big, new apartment. I have a few weeks of overlap/cleaning/selling via Craigslist, and then... we're completely done. Joy, oh joy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday -- the summer weather and my wardrobe

Well, the weather seems finally to be putting cold temperatures permanently behind us (below 50!) and moving into our medium spring temps (50s-70s) -- for which I am grateful! Rode Bella to school yesterday in shirt and sweatshirt in the morning, but came home in shirt sleeves alone at 2 pm. My ceiling fans are on 50% of the time cooling the house, but no a.c. yet.

This means we're getting close to something I usually ignore: warm weather clothing. As I have said before, the Big D is H-O-T in summer. Mind-blowingly, surface of the sun H-O-T (ok, that's an exaggeration if you live in San Antonio... but still!). Going outside, doing errands means two things: sweating and sunshine.

First: sunscreen is a necessary expense for where I live. Reminded of that last week on Monday when I got a nice pinkish tint on forearms and chest from sitting outside on a sunny, windy day--really pink!

The fact is that just as problematic as the heat is the sunniness of my area. The sun shines relentlessly, and not wearing sunscreen, a hat, or clothes that covers fair skin (like mine) is stupid... and I've been there. Not simply for the vain reasons of aging, but the health reasons of melanoma.

Second: sweating is simply a matter of course. Even if your car has adequate a.c., simply walking from the apartment to your car, then from your car into the mall, and back to your car... you sweat. And once you sit inside your hot, hot car? You sweat. Beyond keeping hydrated (carrying water absolutely everywhere and drinking it), it ruins your clothes, your makeup, your hair.

As someone with weight issues and height issues, summer is my least favorite clothing time of year.

My summer clothing requirements:
  • No shorts. I have grappled with and realized no length or cut of shorts works for me, mentally.
  • No minis. Why? Obvious: I am neither 15 nor Baby Jane. 'Nuff said.
  • No sleeveless nuthings. Why oh why are deisgners so enamoured of sleeveless dresses, sleeveless tops, tanks and shells? No woman over 45 should (or often can) wear them: so why are intelligent retailers like Ann Taylor or Talbots offering only 3 dresses each among their entire site with sleeves longer than cap-sleeve length? Jones N.Y. offers 21 on their site, and they don't look half-bad. But this week when I walked the aisles of Neiman-Marcus, everything was mini and sleeveless: apparently rich women don't gain weight... or can afford to have it sucked out.
What do I wear?
  • skirts: love the excuse. Although, again, finding skirts that are neither minis nor cut tight is a challenge.
  • dresses: I used to have a great collection of little cotton dresses I wore everywhere. My style has changed, but I mourn the loss of those dresses, since putting on a dress is so darn simple; add a belt, earrings, sandals, a bag and you're done!
  • linen trousers, ankle length.
  • skorts: for workouts, riding the bike, the batting cages, running quick errands. It's a skirt, it's shorts, it's... you get it. There's a reason women who play golf and tennis wear them, and it's called sharp looking.
  • linen blouses and tunics, the lighter the better, in colors ranging from white (lots of them!) to sherbet green/pink/orange to slightly darker blues and greens. The only downside is ironing. Gypsy, Mexican, hippy--whatever, it's cool, it's colorful, it's relaxed and hip at once without lingering on my danger zones.
  • cardigans. Simple ones. The trick I've learned is to get ones that look neither matronly (bulky or shapeless) nor tight (forget Forever 21!). Unfortunately, for women like me, with breasts, finding the right cardigan is difficult, because they are typically styled without shaping, or rather so that I can shape it... which is great for Lana Turner but not so much for me. Most cheap cardies have tight arms, tight bodies, and are cut too short, even for petites.
The concerns:
  • riding my bike and walking means both sunscreen and minimal clothing. Since I typically wear a skort and t-shirt that means sunscreen everywhere (and carried with me). And coming to terms with short sleeves and my aging arms. Sigh.
  • bringing indoor layers to combat colds--because the a.c. will be 60 degrees. Guaranteed.
  • keeping activity clothing (for biking, batting, and even walking) separate from clothes I might wear to the movies--because when you get where you're going or if you do any physical activity, you're sweaty. And if you don't plan ahead, you'll be sitting in the movie theatre shivering and sweaty.
  • laundry. In this hot weather, wearing = washing, because of the heat. Good thing I am moving into an apartment with a washer-dryer on hand.
  • looking cool despite the heat. Tricks I've learned include carrying a change of clothes; wearing a tissue-weight t-shirt under my cotton top, which can be removed and stowed in my tote; wearing a wide-brimmed hat; carrying a fan; carrying a tote instead of a smaller purse; bringing small Evian sprays to cool my neck and chest; carrying antispectic handwipes for the same reason (the alcohol in them refreshes, although it also dries); putting on makeup after you get where you're going (beyond waterproof mascara and lip gloss); and, of course, building in extra time for the changes or repairs necessary... as well as to avoid hurrying or the stress of hurrying.  
That's it. Once my move to the new apartment is complete (30 hours and counting...), I'll be organizing my closet and my life accordingly. Can't wait, as I am living in Chaos City right now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday -- My Favorite Things: Laura and Charade

Two of my favorite old films are Laura and Charade. I can watch them over and over again and still enjoy the nuances of the plots, the suspense, the acting. And the style of them, as well.

Laura was made in 1944, during the war, from the novel by Vera Caspery. Simply, it is a black-and-white suspense film, revolving around the murder of a young woman, Laura Hunt, in the New York City of the era. The film starts with the assignment of Detective Mark McPherson to the case; he has come to question Waldo Lydecker, a famous columnist and Laura's friend. The film opens with McPherson (Dana Andrews) waiting on Lydecker (Clifton Webb), as Lydecker watched McPherson from his bathtub.

It turns out McPherson is a kind of cop-hero because of a prior shooting, and Lydecker's favorite hobby is murder. The first part of the film introduces us to the likely suspects, including Laura's aunt Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), boyfriend and colleague Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), and maid Bessie Clary (Dorothy Adams). McPherson goes to Laura's glamorous single gal apartment, where her portrait hangs over the parlor, and begins to investigate.

This is a well-done romantic suspense melodrama: there are several twists you don't see coming. Gene Tierney plays Laura, and her character of a successful female ad executive is both glamorous and apparently charming, in the initial flashbacks of the film.

I won't say more, because the twists are key, but I will say it is only recently that I did the math within the script: Laura is apparently 17 or 18 when she first meets Waldo, and something like 24 or 25 when she is murdered, but has reached the top of her game through hard work, creativity, and intelligence--no whiff of sex or evil manipulation... interesting choices in that era.

Charade is later, 1963, and stars Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. The supporting cast includes Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass, among others. Certainly I love it because it is shot on location around Paris -- the Theatre du Palais Royale, the Champs Elysees's stamp market, and even in the Metro.

Written by Peter Stone and directed by Stanley Donen, Charade is sharp, witty, funny, and suspenseful. Regina Lampert (Hepburn) comes home frm a vacation in the Alps determined to divorce her husband, but finds instead their apartment stripped to the bone and empty and her husband dead -- pushed off a train. very quickly, she comes to discover that her husband was not who she thought (multiple passposts and murder!), and that three men are chasing her to find the money he has stolen from them (Coburn, Kennedy, and Glass).

Reggie meets Peter (Cary Grant) in the Alps, and then he surfaces again in time to help her find a hotel and pursue her questions about her dead husband. Unfortunately, Grant's identity seems as slippery as her husband's, and Reggie, while attracted (of course!) starts to become fearful of Peter's involvement in the mystery.

Again, no spoilers. The bulk of my enjoyment, beyond the beauties of Paris, comes from the chemistry between Hepburn and Grant, as well as the series of wondeful outfits Hepburn wears, from hats to shoes, throughout the film. Grant seems perfectly comfortable making fun of himself, too, and adding to the suspense.

And both films have themesongs you probably have heard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Frenzy update

11 days, 31 pages... of the 30 days, 100 pages.

Time to step it up a bit.

Frugal Tuesday: the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good:
  • saved $44.51 at the grocery and drug stores this weekend, which was slightly less than I spent
  • decided not to buy a new summer bag, then found a (gently used) orange tote in the spot by my complex's dumpster where residents put things that are still nice but being discarded--not trash, but moving along; it is bright orange canvas and "vinyl" and has only one small scuff mark
  • received quarterly payment on retirement account that was reinvested--if I am reading it correctly, I earned a $7K increase in this quarter alone--wow!

The Bad:
  • going to court on Thursday for the first ticket--means fine of some kind
  • moving with movers on Friday, which means paying them hourly plus distance charges
  • haven't managed Goodwill or consignment gigs, so no decluttering or cash flow from those yet
The Ugly
  • as of Friday I will have two utility streams (old and new) for two weeks, as we head into air conditioning time...
  • have one more month of double rent and no summer classes yet, which will diminish my secret savings account nearly completely
I did manage a couple of good things, besides the new summer tote (in the hot color, for once!). I am working the pantry challenge really well, and bought lots of cheap strawberries to freeze for smoothies all winter. I got to a free movie (my student's award winning film) and a free concert where another friend had the world premiere of his musical composition and a free dinner with a friend from the English department at My U and a guest lecturer--and all were delightful! I discovered that the grocery store within biking distance of my new apartment is even better than my (former) favorite in that chain--good produce, lovely renovations, pharmacy and post office onsite--and yes, I can bike there and back between 8 am and 10 pm in the summer. And my old apartment is ridiculously cheerful with the bunches of cheap daffodils I bought on Sunday as well.

Beautiful Boy, the film

Meant to post this yesterday, but Monday got away from me.

On Saturday I got to see the film produced by my former student, Lee Clay, titled Beautiful Boy. It is a lovely feature film written by Shawn Ku and Michael Armbruster and directed by Ku. The film stars Michael Sheen (Underworld, The Queen) and Maria Bello (History of Violence, ER) -- two fot he hardest working actors in film and TV. The film is an intimate view of a couple who discover that their only son committed an act of violence and then killed himself.

The film is not about the violence or sensationalism of the act, nor about the media frenzy or placing blame. It is about a couple on the verge of divorcing who, because of a terrible, unexpected event, are forced to rediscover who they are individually and as a couple. Beautiful Boy focuses on the actors--including a small group of supporting actors--and on the intimacy of the relationships.

I expected to either cry or find it melodramatic, but instead I was moved by the strong writing, acting, directing, and production values of the film. It is a "small" film by Hollywood standards (made for something like $750K), but honest and simple. The moving camera at times irritated me, because it cut off my ability to witness reactions or continue focusing on the actor-character without acknowledging the director (man behind the camera)--this is a contemporary convention of younger filmmakers, and I am willing to be done with it. I know there is a person behind the camera, but frankly, I don't need to see you to enjoy your craft and creativity in the film. I think it calls attention to the wrong thing and just makes me jittery.

That said--I recommend Beautiful Boy. Limited release June 3 (NY and LA), opening on wide platforms through October (new terms I learned!). This is a film for adults, folks, not teens.

And, yes, in part I am thrilled because it was my student (go, Lee!) who produced it--but he, Michael, and Shawn came to meet my students last Friday and so generously spent three hours answering questions, chatting, and simply being delightful. It is great to see your students grow up and do you proud.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The look of spring at My U

Bustin' out all over!

Cooking this week

This week I cooked, baked, or made:
  • Poached salmon with Old Bay and lemon
  • Chicken breasts with pesto and asparagus
  • Szechwan Slaw (a cabbage slaw with rice vinegar and ginger dressing)
  • Blueberry muffins
Heavily practicing pantry challenge, everything was out of the pantry or in-house except the asparagus and the cabbage for the slaw.

The delight of the slaw -- out of The Whole Foods Cookbook -- is that it is healthy and filling. The dressing is vinegar-based, meaning less fat.

  • equal parts rice vinegar & canola oil (usually 1/4 c. each for below amount of salad)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar (optional)
  • 2 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp.crushed red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • Salt to taste
 In a bowl combine all dressing ingredients and set aside. Or cover and chill until ready to use.
  • 6 cups thinly sliced cabbage (red, green, or mixed)
  • 1 large red or green bell pepper seeded and thinly sliced
  • 4-8 green onions thinly sliced, including the tops
  • 1 carrot peeled and sliced thin or grated
  • 1/4 lb. snow peas, sliced thinly
  • 1/8 cup black sesame seeds
 Mix all salad ingredients and chill. Mix dressing, and about 15 mins. before serving, toss and serve.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Frugal Tuesday... and more!

Yesterday's task was to contact credit card companies and see if I could get a better rate. Remember, if you will, that in December I made these calls and no one could improve the rates?

Same thing yesterday... except it turns out I HAVE GREAT RATES... comparatively. Which means I am sad for the rest of America. But I also checked my credit rating and golly wow -- good news! Except that they are two months behind on two cards... so maybe it is even better?

This is happy news, as was my comparison on all cards, because with two rents this month, I am broke. Good to know which card to use for lowest rates... sigh.

Keep in mind:
  • April pantry challenge (not taking that food with me!)
  • April freezer challenge (ditto!)
  • Craigslist ahoy! Furniture and appliances and computers, oh my!
  • Consignment store visit ahead
  • Book/record/DVD selling ahead
  • Returning two pairs of Lee jeans bought online and not quite right... this week!
  • Cleaning out crazy study -- shredding papers, old checks (!), tossing dusty files
Minimalism and de-cluttering make me happy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Monday's class

Yesterday I had a completely successful afternoon with my senior writers, in a meeting with two former students who generously answered their questions about post-graduation life as writers, actors, and artists, including which Big City they should move to. It was a lovely afternoon, and today both my forearms are sunburned because (duh!) we sat outside for two hours.

Frugal Tuesday: May 5, 2011

This week I spent a lot--being the first week of the month, I had what I call a "Big Shop" at Target to add to my usual grocery stuff.

Saved: $32.55... but I spent $200.00 between Target ($156.53), groceries ($30) and Sunday breakfast ($10). I also used my last $5 gift card at Target.

What did I buy at Target: $60 worth of gift cards as gifts for my student directors in the recent project. They don't even get class credit, and they put in about 30 hours of rehearsal plus prep time; it's my thank you. $37 in patio furniture for the new place: 2 chairs at $10 each and a table at $17. Not bad for giving me a place to have my morning coffee and late afternoon wine with a friend. Bonus: the cheaper chairs were more appealing than the rest, and I could splurge on the table. Another $40 in things for the new place as I move, including new towels (on sale), cleaning supplies, storage items (on sale), and string (half the old towels are going to Goodwill this week, and the other half once I am completely moved).

I had to grit my teeth when I added it up, but decided I had done a pretty fair job of buying things that both appealed and were cost effective. I passed on a couple of things I wanted until they go on sale at Target or I can drive up to Ikea. I am really struggling not to use the new place as an excuse to buy stuff... which is my usual modus operandi.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

JANE EYRE: The New One

Since Jane Eyre was one of those seminal books for me as a young girl (2.11.10), of course I went to see the newest version, starring MiaWasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbinder as Mr. Rochester, directed by Cary Fukunaga.

General overall comment: go see it if you are a fan of the book or the story.

Caveat: the screenplay by Moira Buffini moves like a house a-fire and has a more Gothic feeling than I think the novel embraces. Buffini includes sizable segments from the three parts of the book: Jane's life prior to coming to Thornfield Hall, her life at Thornfield/with Mr. Rochester, and her time with St. John Rivers (played by Jamie Bell), who actually gets a lot more time than his character warrants.

But everyone is here: Mrs. Reed and her nasty children, Mr. Brocklehurst and Helen Burns, and the crew at Thornfield. In fact, the most famous actor in the piece is Dame Judi Dench, who plays Mrs. Fairfax; Dench is of course spectacular as a working actress in her prime and graciously plays this small secondary role, mostly in scenes with the young Wasikowska.

My major arguments against this new version are personal. One, the screenplay, besides rocketing along so quickly there are none of Bronte's subtleties, also starts in an unlikely and ultimately flawed place: with Jane's rescue on the moor by St. John Rivers. Thus, while she "recovers" and starts to embrace her new life with the Rivers family, she flashes back to her childhood and time with Mr. Rochester, memories triggered by what feel like very cliched comments from the Rivers brother and sisters.

Jane is ogling the mutton-chops!
 And the book is very clear: St. John Rivers is a more typical "hero" than Rochester -- better looking, more selfless, more in keeping with a mainstream religious and political audience. he is the obvious choice, if you will, and the reader is meant to be surprised and affected by Jane's refusal to choose him rather than the problematic Rochester. Jamie Bell is unfortunately hampered by some mutton-chop whiskers that simply became more fascinating than his acting (yes, it's true) and kept him from in any way appearing heroic. No way was Jane even tempted -- which is all too clear.

Gothic Hero
Second objection: Fassbinder was handsome in a brooding sort of way, but did not have the humor or intelligence Rochester amply demonstrates in the novel. Jane doesn't fall for her employer's looks (that is made clear) but for the fact that his spirit, his character, his self is as stubborn, intelligent, quirky, and free-willed as her own. Fassbinder's Rochester is a weeper (oy, the sensitive Gothic hero!) and doesn't have nearly the right amount of self-aware arrogance the novel demonstrates. The Rochester here is more Harlequin Romance than Bronte, sadly. he's not bad, but in my opinion the best Rochester was Toby Stephens (2006 BBC-TV version).

Third objection: there is absolutely no time to breathe, to appreciate, the enjoy the story. It's a roller coaster ride. Which disappointed me, because the end result was more Danielle Steele than Charlotte Bronte: a romance where there is no need for pausing because the whole thing is so shallow that it is like eating whipped cream. No need to chew. Whereas, as I see it, Jane Eyre is actually more like a savory beef pot pie, thick with gravy and veg. Not solely romantic, but delightfully seasoned, filling, and, on a cold winter's night on the moors, something you're glad to linger over.

And Bronte's novel is, in fact, not solely a romance but a social critique, an indictment of class inequity, and a compelling portrait of an intelligent young woman who knows that because of her lack of fortune and pretty face, she has limited opportunities and yet she is a fierce, free, intelligent, compassionate being. It is about atonement and forgiveness, it is about paying for the mistakes of our youth, it is about love (and not merely romantic love, but filial love and deep friendship). it is about judging people by their appearance, and (in a very early form) an indictment of the social text that some people, because they are rich or beautiful, are superior to or more entitled than the poor, the ugly, the crippled in body or mind.

Jane sees the world very clearly, and while she understands that her perceptions are colored by her love, her envy, her fear, or her anger, she records for us her perceptions and her prejudices without being preachy or priggish.

The movie eliminates that in favor of Jane as romantic, helpless heroine, the little girl enamoured of and healing the damaged hero... except (spoiler alert!) he is never damaged as the novel requires in its hard justice. And the film ignores Bronte's sense of justice, which is hard and perhaps thus not comfortable to our pink-clouded romantic eyes.

This is the same kind of Hollywood mishandling that damaged the Pride and Prejudice of a few years ago: way too Gothic, was too emo to be true to Austen's sense of justice and independence... as well as the author's clear-eyed and harder sense of reality.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Catching up on goals for 2011

Since the first quarter of 2011 is gone, I want to update myself on my progress this year.

Improving my health: While I haven't lost any weight, the weekly yoga classes and rides on the bike to and from My U have been great. Ditto moving the "small stuff" into my new apartment. I feel better. And I'm adding happy face stickers to my calendar on a daily, not weekly, basis for every day I complete 30 minutes or more exercise. Weight Watchers has been a bit of a bust, but I am hanging in there. The best news: thus far, I have had no serious allergy/sinus episodes (meaning, lasting longer than 4-5 days), which is already a huge difference from 2010. And I have definitely improved my mental self-talk: no more beating myself up. I am catching myself earlier, rescripting my interior monologues, and simply refusing to listen.

Changing my living situation: In progress. By April 30, I will be entirely in the new apartment, enjoying 50% additional space, a wet bar, an outdoor patio, and a kinder, gentler, non-crazy landlord.

Manage my resources: Regular payments into credit accounts have already closed out three of my four cards; the other is being paid down steadily. Moving means decluttering, selling, and throwing away; yesterday I visited Buffalo Exchange with some clothing, for example. Pantry challenge is slowly but steadily emptying my cupboards and freezer. Time continues to be precious, but I feel I have a better handle on it right now. technology: set "acting" folders in emailboxes, clean out email boxes weekly, set daily times to check email (no more than 3 times daily!).

Build a stronger community: Making time for coffee, dinner, brunch with friends. Part of the charm of my new place is that I can, finally, entertain friends at home again!. Working on My U community and local theatre community to develop connections. Working on distance relationships with great friends who live too far away. One goal I want to leap on: connecting with Habitat for Humanity this month.

Creative work and closure: Sent out novel manuscript. Sent out plays and monologues. Subscribed to Script Frenzy, and opportunity to write 100 pages in 30 days (11 down!). Pitched proposal for play translation to colleague (more about this, this week, and I continue to negotiate this situation!). Brought playwriting festival at My U to successful process/production incorporating not only students but faculty and guest visitors. Oh, and writing my blog at least 5 times weekly.

The good news is that I have been active in each category and accomplishing small goals, or parts of larger goals.  Since balance is my overall goal for 2011, I am pleased with my small series of accomplishments; a lot has actually been done.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Favorite Thing: Frugal Meal #1

Combining my "favorites" with frugality is good. This week I cooked one of my favorite frugal meals: frugal, because it includes 3 ingredients you can buy on sale or not, but usually have on hand.

Chicken with Salsa and Lemon (or Lime)

2 Chicken Breasts or 1 package of Chicken Tenders (boneless, skinless--of course!)

1 Lemon or Lime

1 Jar any brand/flavor Salsa

Here's the trick: buy good quality salsa! Like the all-natural kind. Embrace local, embrace organic and the flavor of this dish will soar! Plus you will eliminate preservatives, chemicals, fats, and sugar--yay, you!

Locally, I buy Mateo's -- no fat, no sugar, just organic ingredients locally made.

Put chicken breasts in baking pan. I use my Le Creuset 10x7 casserole. You can pound the breasts first if you want--or if you have a hard day--or just lay them out. Slice citrus thinly and lay out strategically over chicken. Pour 1/2 jar of salsa over chicken. Cook, uncovered, in 350-degree over for 35-45 minutes (depending on your over--check after 30 minutes). Serves 2-4, f you cut the breasts in half.

This is am amagingly savory dish, driven by the mild to hot salsa, according to your tastes

Make brown rice to go under, about 1 cup serving per person.
Make green side dish (asparagus, steamed broccoli) and use a second lemon to season.
Make an enormous salad.